This Thursday, September 27, 2007, motorcycle and pop culture icon, Willie G. Davidson, rode into Maggie Valley, NC with good old-fashioned American motorized history on his mind. His destination….the Wheels Through Time Museum. The Sr. Vice President and Chief Styling Officer of the legendary Harley-Davidson Motor Company, along with his son, Michael, and 12 other executives from Harley-Davidson had been planning the visit for some time, and upon their arrival, knew that they were in for an amazing experience.
Davidson, affectionately known by his fans, friends, and co-workers as “Willie G.” or “The G-Man”, has played a primary role in making Harley-Davidson the icon that it is today. Grandson of one of the original-founders of the motor company, Willie G. was asked to join the design department at Harley-Davidson in 1963. Just six short years later, he was promoted to Vice President of Styling and would begin shaping the companies future. The G-Man was crucial in saving the company from bankruptcy, as he and 12 other company executives raised money to buy Harley-Davidson back from the conglomerate AMF. The new owners, under the leadership of Willie G., not only saved the company from the same ill fate as past American motorcycle companies, but built it into one of the most successful, profitable, and fast-growing corporations in the country over the past 15 years.
The reason for their visit to the world-class museum was two-fold. Willie G. had been the honorary guest at the museum’s initial grand opening in Mt. Vernon, IL, but had not had the chance to visit the new museum since its relocation to Maggie Valley. With a few days to spare, the G-Man jumped on his brand new Harley to see for himself what the new Wheels Through Time was all about.
The second reason for his visit was for new inspiration for the new Harley-Davidson Museum, an 80 million dollar project slated to open in Summer of 2008 in downtown Milwaukee. The museum will draw visitors from around the world to experience the people, products, culture and history of Harley-Davidson, celebrating the rich history of the company, the passion of the riders, and the stories of the thousands of employees, dealers, and company leaders who have helped shape America’s largest and oldest motorcycle company.
As the group of executives, design professionals, and avid enthusiasts toured the museum, each wandered in amazement, taking in the deep and rich history of American motorcycle culture. When asked by one museum visitor “Will the Harley Davidson Museum be this good?”, Willie G.’s son, Michael, responded with a smile and a slight shrug. “We’ve got a lot of amazing motorcycles, literature, and stories from Harley-Davidson’s earliest days, but I don’t think that there will ever be another museum like this one.”
Willie G. affectionately and enthusiastically conveyed his thoughts in just a few short words. “I love this place!!!”
Wille G. Davidson (4th from left) poses with Harley-Davidson Motor Company Executives and Museum staff Thursday, outside the Wheels Through Time Museum.